|Pretty in Pink|
Earlier this week, a member of my team sent me a copy of the following Tweet: “Don’t waste your time on SharePoint unless you actually affect the users lives positively” Really? Is that why I’m here, to affect their lives positively? See, honestly, I don’t think so.
OK, before I have Jill Hart calling me and asking why I drifted back to the dark side, I’m not giving up on usability, and the concept of providing a better user experience. I’m just saying that if I have to justify my efforts, it won’t be based on the ways I impacted my users’ lives. Let’s start with the fact that we bought SharePoint to save money. You see, we had content management requirements and SharePoint was the least expensive solution at the time that could satisfy those requirements. I’m not using the word “requirement” frivolously; I’m talking about things that need to be done in order for our business to operate today, tomorrow, five, ten years from now and long after that. You might ask “can’t you satisfy those requirements and affect their lives positively?” Maybe we can, on the other hand, there will be times where, as Mr. Spock said, “the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.” On yet another hand, there will be times when, as my father was prone to say, “you (we) don’t realize what is good for you.” So, I could be doing something that is good for our company, good for the majority of users and/or good for our customers, but which is perceived as negatively impacting one or more of my users.
Metadata – We have all had the experience where the addition of certain metadata makes some people very happy. Search is easier, or they gain the ability to sort and filter a collection of documents, or they can build a workflow to automate portions of their process. However, the people that have to set the metadata (if they are not the same people) now have more work to do. The positive impact may not affect them at all, they simply have more work. This doesn’t make metadata a bad thing, and it certainly can’t be a reason to avoid using SharePoint or any other ECM solution.
Classification – I could probably step out of my office, stop the next five people walking by and find three who would feel that they have been negatively impacted by our efforts to better classify documents. Forcing people to understand a more granular classification scheme and to develop a more deft hand when selecting documents for upload, requires more time and effort. Yet having the ability to classify documents is one of the key reasons we bought SharePoint.
I could give other examples, but you get my point. Information management is a corporate requirement. SharePoint is a software solution that allows companies to automate various aspects of information management. I would say “don’t waste your time on SharePoint unless you can actually produce something of value for your company”, but that has an entirely different connotation than the tweet quoted above. I’m not I’m splitting hairs, we buy software to improve our competitive position, to save money, to improve our customer experience, to comply with regulations, and so on. The inability to do those things should be the only reason we should decide “not to waste our time” on something.
Building information management solutions that provide a good user experience should be seen as a requirement of the people building those solutions. Information managers (including me) should make sure that ‘user experience’ is an issue to be considered in every phase of a project, but we can’t simply build a great experience, we have to solve the problem too. If the solutions we build do not also positively impact our users’ lives, it isn’t going to be SharePoint’s fault, it’s going to be my fault or it’s going to have been deemed unavoidable, as in “I’m sorry, but you now have more work to do.”
Now, how about that trash can, how does that fit in? That’s my brother’s trash can; he got it in exchange for a donation for cancer research. We don’t have pretty pink cans where I live, but we do have trash and recycle bins. Our town selected a recycling vendor that uses wheeled bins because the vendor can pass along the savings that the bins generate for their operation. Ironically, the bin is too large for my elderly neighbor to wheel around, so somebody usually takes her bin to the curb for her. The town’s decision did not positively impact my neighbor’s life, but it was still the right decision.